Top 20 Alternative Music Videos of the ’90s
Back when MTV played music videos and the spirit of grunge was alive and well, music videos were a BIG DEAL. Before YouTube, online streaming and social media, the best way for an artist to connect to their fanbase was through creating a video so memorable and bad ass, people wouldn’t be able to stop talking about it.
Big budgets, ambitious visuals and innovative ideas were the order of the day, with directors such as Spike Jonze, Jonas Akerlund, Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry pioneering the artform and creating some legendary videos that have stood the test of time.
We’ve put together our top 20 90’s alternative music videos for your enjoyment, but please note that some of these videos feature graphic images and should not be viewed by persons of a nervous disposition.
Blue Banana’s Top 20 Alternative Music Videos of the ’90s
20: Ice Cube ‘It Was a Good Day’ (1993)
20th January 1992. Science has proven that’s when Ice Cube’s ‘good day’ was.
19: Marilyn Manson ‘The Beautiful People’ (1996)
We think that this is by far the creepiest Marilyn Manson video of the bunch and that’s really saying something! Featuring Manson on stilts, bugs, freaky costumes and provocative political imagery, this video set the benchmark for the future of rock videos. Word of warning, the dental device will make you squirm, 19 years on we still don’t like looking at it…
18: No Doubt ‘Just a Girl’ (1995)
As the lead song from the band’s Tragic Kingdom album, ‘Just a Girl’ is often overshadowed by ‘Don’t Speak’, the band’s massive hit from the same album. The video employs a split screen effect, with the difference in locations highlighting and making light of the gender disparity that the song details.
17: Rage Against The Machine ‘Sleep Now in the Fire’ (1999)
Never ones to shy away from a political statement, Rage Against The Machine hired filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore to direct their fifth release from the iconic Battle of Los Angeles album. The video features them playing outside the New York Stock Exchange, an act that resulted in the doors to the premises being closed and the band getting escorted away by security after attempting to gain access to the building.
16: Placebo ‘Nancy Boy’ (1997)
The video to Placebo’s most famous hit features nightmarish imagery of detached body parts, distorted faces and distracting flashing lights, and when combined with an utterly hypnotic track, it becomes a three minute long assault on the senses. In a similar vein to NiN’s ‘Closer’ it’s hard to watch this video without feeling unsettled, yet this is the very quality that makes it so enduring and memorable.
15: Aphex Twin ‘Come to Daddy’ (1997)
The video for ‘Come to Daddy’ is an incredibly unsettling, almost disturbing piece of art. Directed by Chris Cunningham, the video has been named the best video of the ’90s by several publications, including Pitchfork. It was the only music video to land a spot on Channel 4’s ‘100 Greatest Scary Moments’, we think that the group of children with Richard James’ face superimposed on them is enough to give you nightmares…sleep with the light on kids, you’ll thank us for it.
14: Nirvana ‘In Bloom’ (1992)
As the fourth single from the seminal Nevermind album, ‘In Bloom’ has been somewhat overshadowed by its predecessors ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Lithium’. However, we at Blue Banana LOVE this song and the video that goes with it! The band begin the video by appearing on an old time tv show clad in prim, preppy ’50s outfits, but as the video progresses, their performance becomes increasingly chaotic and their formal demeanour gives way to destruction, cross dressing and total anarchy. The video won Best Alternative Video at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1993, making it the band’s second consecutive win in that category.
13: Metallica ‘Until It Sleeps’ (1996)
The 1996 winner of the MTV Video Music Award for Best Rock Video draws inspiration from Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights to make a darkly eerie video. Based around the illness of singer James Hetfield’s mother, this deeply personal and emotional song was a real departure from the Metallica fans had come to know and love in the ’80s.
12: Green Day ‘Basket Case’ (1994)
As the third single released from Dookie, ‘Basket Case’ is undoubtedly Green Day’s most enduringly popular and recognisable song. The video was set in an abandoned mental hospital and originally filmed in black and white, with the colour added in post production. This gave the video an oddly surreal look, as everything seems just a little too bright and cheerful, something that juxtaposes nicely with the numerous references to One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. Wonder what Nurse Ratched would’ve made of it?
11: Nine Inch Nails ‘Closer’ (1994)
Undoubtedly the most well known Nine Inch Nails song, ‘Closer’ pioneered the mid ’90s trend for ‘lust anthems’, songs that were…well, a bit hot ‘n heavy! Set in a Victorian style ‘science lab’, the video is full of creepy, unsettling imagery and explores themes of sex, death and religion. In order to be broadcast, the video required heavy editing and censorship and 21 years after it’s original release, the video has only been screened in it’s original format during late night broadcasts or on specialist age restricted channels.
10: Fatboy Slim ‘Praise You’ (1999)
As one of the biggest hits of the ’90s, ‘Praise You’ The video features a dancing flashmob descending upon an unsuspecting and bemused group of moviegoers. It may not feature a dancing Christopher Walken, but we like it all the same.
9: Korn ‘Freak on a Leash’ (1999)
As the winner of several awards and one of TRL’s most popular videos of all time, ‘Freak on a Leash’ is considered by many to be Korn’s best ever video and one of the clear highlights of the nu metal movement. Blending animated segments with live action, this video followed the progress of a bullet as it exits the animated world and enters reality, wreaking havoc until it returns to its point of origin. The video used several pioneering special effects and at the time, was technologically groundbreaking. The song is still one of the band’s most successful and requested songs, garnering several re-releases over the past decade and countless cover versions.
8: Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ (1994)
Yet another video directed by Spike Jonze? Hell yeah! ‘Sabotage’ features the rappers starring as hapless cops (Complete with questionable facial hair and amusing nicknames) in a hilarious parody of ’70s crime shows. The video was a massive hit, gaining scores of award nominations and accolades and was even referenced in the opening credits of Trainspotting. As one of the Beastie’s most popular hits, the song has been enduringly popular, recently being covered by hardcore punk band Cancer Bats and is regularly incorporated into the set lists of nu-metallers Linkin Park, Korn and Slipknot.
7: Weezer ‘Buddy Holly’ (1994)
As the second single from their best selling debut album, the video features the band superimposed into an episode of the iconic ’50s show Happy Days. Released on what would’ve been Buddy Holly’s 58th birthday, the video pays tribute to the eponymous heroes squeaky clean, wholesome image. Directed by Spike Jonze, the video rapidly secured itself a place in music history, winning numerous awards and even being included in an exhibition of groundbreaking music videos at MoMA in New York.
6: Daft Punk ‘Around the World’ (1997)
Released in March 1997, ‘Around the World’ rapidly became a massive worldwide hit, propelling the band into stardom. The Michel Gondry directed video was filmed in a single take, with each instrument represented by a different group of dancers moving in time to the music.The video has gone on to be regarded as one of the greatest music videos of all time, inspiring plenty of artists and musicians alike. Who knew a song with only three words could be so damned catchy?
5: Prodigy ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ (1997)
Commonly deemed to be one of the greatest dance records of all time, this was the third single from the bestselling album, Fat of the Land. Directed by Jonas Akerlund, the video follows a hidden protagonist throughout the course of a hedonistic and debauched night out, revealing the woman behind the chaos in the final moments of the video. The video attracted a great deal of controversy upon its release, leading to it being banned by the BBC and heavily censored by other broadcasters, leading to it being voted the ‘Most Controversial Song of All Time’.
4: Soundgarden ‘Black Hole Sun’ (1994)
Arguably the band’s most recognisable and best known song, this melancholy tune was the third single from 1994’s Superunknown. This absolutely iconic video takes place in suburbia, where the creepy inhabitants are beset by misery and eventually swallowed by a black hole, leaving only the band behind. The video has proved to be a source of visual inspiration to plenty of other artists, something that’s particularly evident in Skunk Anansie’s Lately and Muse’s Muscle Museum, both released in 1999.
3: Blink182 ‘What’s My Age Again?’ (1999)
‘What’s My Age Again’ was the lead single from the album Enema of the State and the first song to feature Travis Barker on drums and the band in their classic lineup. The video features the trio running naked around LA, hijacking news reports and commercials whilst singing about the struggles of being immature and not wanting to grow up. In recent years, this has become one of their most famous songs and has inspired plenty of club nights based on the ‘Peter Pan Complex’ the band sing about.
2: Foo Fighters ‘Learn To Fly’ (1999)
You can always rely on the Foo’s for an awesome video! Paying homage to the cult film Airplane! the video sees the band taking control of plane when the drugged crew and passengers become incapacitated. With each person performing multiple roles (Taylor Hawkins in drag is a truly wonderous sight!), the video has a hilariously surreal feel, it’s easy to see why the band won a Grammy Award for the Best Short Form Music Video.
1: Smashing Pumpkins ‘Tonight, Tonight’ (1996)
As the third single from the band’s seminal 1995 album ‘Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness’, ‘Tonight, Tonight’ is a dramatic, theatrical song with a video to match. The award winning video was inspired by the 1902 Georges Melies film ‘A Trip To The Moon’, ‘Tonight, Tonight’ and featured a group of people visiting the moon in a zeppelin, encountering hostile aliens and then plunging into the sea, where they befriend Poseidon and are treated to a performance by singing mermaids, before floating back up to land in a bubble to be rescued.
- VH1 have compiled a list of their favourite 100 songs from the ’90s. Check it out if you want a slice of cheesy boyband goodness!
- More of a britpop lover? Then have a look at NME‘s ‘100 Best Tracks of the Nineties’ and re-live the infamous Oasis v Blur chart battle.
- Fancy checking out some epic fails? Then check out this list of the worst music videos of the ’90s!
Can’t be bothered to watch all the videos? The check out our Spotify playlist!